A Cooke Look at NAB 2012

The annual, unofficial Cooke owner’s club gathering at NAB was once again moderated by the inimitable Geoffrey Chappell. The discussion, fueled by friendship, fine food, and flowing beverage, offered a snapshot of the state of our industry in mid 2012. Here is the full transcript.

GEOFFREY CHAPPELL

I’d like to welcome you all to our annual gathering of. Tell us what you saw at the NAB show that impressed you the most. To begin, let’s hear from Juan Pablo Fabres, from Chile.

JUAN PABLO FABRES, JPF CINE S.A. (CHILE)

You got me again, Geoffrey. First of all, I saw a couple of very interesting things. And for the first time I can freely and openly talk about ARRI in front of Juergen Schwinzer (who recently left ARRI Inc and now works at ZGC and Cooke). So I’ll take advantage of that. It was very good to see ARRI announcing the acceptance of the /i system because many people are already using Cooke’s /i lens metadata technology.

It’s an interesting thing, and I think it’s an achievement what you’ve done with the /i system. Having it accepted by ARRI is like their saying, “Okay, we have to agree, it must be a good thing.” Some years ago my friend Ernesto Musitelli was returning from Hawaii, and he mentioned that at the NAB show he spent more time in South Hall, the post-production wing, than in the camera wing of the show because everything was going to get closer to post-production.

You were right. Remember the old days when cameras were very expensive, and lenses were, just—okay—also very expensive? Today we have cheap, small cameras and we still have, shall we say, “very-well priced” lenses. But that’s okay. The thing is that post production is in the house now. We have data wranglers, D.I.Ts, color correctors and many things. Our language has changed.

It used to be just photography, and now it has changed. Remember we were talking about Kodak a few years ago? As a still photographer, I have to mourn the death of slide film. No more Kodachrome, no more slides will be produced. What’s going to happen with film?

I still love film. Up until November, in my case, we had 50/50 film and digital. After November, 95% digital, 5% percent film. We don’t have many features in our country. There’s not a market. I still like film, but unbelievably, last year you said that the businesses have changed from camera rental and lens rentals and light rentals into accessories’ rentals, and that’s the business today–accessory rentals.

Cameras with the cages, with the accessories, with cables, that’s our business today. We have cameras with–we have lenses yes, but we are making good money with accessories, with gadgets. That’s what I’ve seen on the show. That’s what I’ve felt the past year. I don’t know if you guys agree. Thank you very much.

GEOFFREY

From Chile, I’d like to go to post production, but also from the buyer and director of photography’s point of view, to the other side of the world, I’d like to call upon Ramish Meer to give his views on India.

RAMISH MEER, CEO, FX FACTORY (MUMBAI)

Okay. I hope everybody knows that India is the largest producer of films. We make more than a thousand films in one year’s time, which is equal to three films in one day. Imagine, India produces three films in one day. Well, everybody is right–Geoff was right when he said less than 20 percent of the films are made digitally in India, and still a lot of people prefer to shoot it on film, but the trend is changing, moving very fast.

And I’m expecting that in the next two years, 80 percent of the films- small budget, medium budget and large budget- will all be made on digital technology, and 20 percent will be retained as a film. 3-D technology is creeping in from behind. Slowly, slowly India is picking up 3D technology. Why was it not moving fast? Because we had fewer theatres. Now we have almost 800 to a thousand theatres available to project 3D systems. That’s why…

And from Hollywood, also in the films that are using 3D, they are all sort of used in Bollywood at the same time. I personally feel that 3D technology may take over in India and in about three to four years time, every second film will be made in 3D because of that immersive experience you get when you are watching 3D. Currently, whatever 3D films were made in India have been super hits. I am myself also producing a 3D film which will be released in the last quarter of this year.

And that’s how the trend is working in India. I don’t know much about the other places, but I keep reading about Bollywood, Hollywood, and Europe and how the trends are going over there. Anybody has any questions you can ask me. By the way, whether we shoot digitally or film, Cooke is going to sell their lenses.

GEOFFREY

Thank you for that. And from India I’d like to keep in that part of the world to maybe, South Africa, and can I call upon Gideon from South Africa to give us his report.

GIDEON FURST, MEDIA FILM SERVICE, SOUTH AFRICA

Good evening everybody. I’m from a very interesting part of the world. Our local industry is fairly small, very active, very healthy, but for five months of the year film makers from around the world converge on a little town, actually called Cape Town, and we on average –between all of the rental companies we shoot on average 30 commercials a day…

GEOFFREY

Did you say a day?

GIDEON

A day! Which is crazy. And what we saw a big change in film vs digital since the launch of the Alexa — and I think it’s partly due to ARRI’s really good marketing campaign. I’ve got my own opinion about shooting to edit, because I’m not really a ProRez fan, but we’ll leave it at that. Our business went from 80 percent film and 20 percent digital in a space of about two months to 93 percent digital, 7 percent film.

That was when Alexa was launched. What we found this season was film starting to come back. Janni van Wyk (CEO of Media Film Service) bought a lab. When everybody else was selling, he actually bought. People are starting to shoot on film again in South Africa. That great movie with Denzel Washington, Invictus, was shot on film. That was a nine month project on film.

Film is not dead in our country. What has happened is we bought an old rental company that had a lot of ancient lenses, and all of a sudden the old Cooke zooms, the 25-250, 18-100, 20-60, and the Speed Panchros we never see them anymore. They’re always out on rental.

What we love about them is the maintenance on the Cooke glass is much less than on the other companies. But there’s one problem: I get about ten calls a day from DPs who want to buy these lenses– because we have a lot of them. Obviously we will not sell them.

You know, the cameras come and the cameras go, but at the end of the day, what our clients come back to is the glass. I think they want to forget about all of this technical stuff and go back to telling stories again. That’s why the Cooke glass is so popular–because it evokes emotion. It evokes real, true, emotional storytelling, and that for me gives me hope that we’re not turning into a crazy, digital, high-tech world: that filmmaking is still filmmaking because that’s what we are. We are filmmakers, and that’s what I have to say.

GEOFFREY

Thank you. Well, one of these filmmakers is here tonight, and I’m very honored to introduce Wolfgang Baumler, partner of Peter Martin. They run Vantage Film and also produced the Hawk anamorphic lenses. So, Wolfgang, would you like to give us a view on the market as you see it?

WOLFGANG baumler, vantage film (weiden, prague, berlin, paris)

Well, okay. At this NAB, once again I had the experience that I didn’t see much interesting or new. I just concluded, once again, that we should invest in glass, not in cameras.

LES ZELLAN

I like the way you think. (laughter)

WOLFGANG

The Canon C300 was shown in November the first time. Now, they show a C500 model. In four months, will they show us a C700? That’s not a business model I like. So, once again I felt in favor of investing in glass. That’s it.

Our rental business is in three countries. Where we are–we’re working in France, we’re working in Germany, and in Prague, Czech Republic. About France, I won’t talk. I leave that for Danys Bruyere or or Ben Steele.

In Germany we’re shooting mostly digital now. Let’s say 90 percent commercials and feature films. But this is typical of Germany. We have a very low budget structure there in feature films. In the Czech Republic it’s different. We have a lot of international features and commercials running. I would say it’s 60 percent digital and 40 percent film. I like that.

Our film cameras are booked up at the moment. It’s a good sign. I still love film. I hope it continues in the next years.

GEOFFREY

Thank you. From Europe to Australia. I’d like to call upon Sue to give us a quick view and an update of what caught her eye at NAB this year so far. Sue?

SUE GREENSHIELDS, LEMAC  (AUSTRALIA)

Well, I am going right to the bottom of this small camera barrel just because it’s an Australian company. The BlackMagic, a little marketing and digital cinema camera amazement, because my own daughter actually texted me overnight to ask me about it. Now that’s a worry, when the kids text you overnight and ask about what they’ve heard on the grape vine. She’s doing digital media at University.

I don’t know. That’s for the marketing people in the room, if that’s a testimony. I’ve already got orders for the BlackMagic camera thing in sales, and nobody knows yet what’s in it. It has obviously got free software packaged out with it, and the DaVinci.

So I think that’s an interesting story, and you can’t underestimate any of those companies or where they are going. Look at Red. They started this.

On the rental end, trends are the same. Film, you know, is in a bit of trouble in our country. The biggest problem we have is that the film labs are shutting down. We’ve lost one and I think we’ll probably lose another one shortly, and that will leave only one, and that one has lost all its print business to Thailand, or shifted it offshore.

So what will keep that lab open going forward is the big problem. You know, if we lose the infrastructure, film will not keep going in our country. If we lose the labs, it’s a huge problem, and I don’t know that we’ve got any government that will to try and keep that open.

I’d like to say that our Aaton Penelope 35mm film cameras are still working, even though Aaton is not here at NAB. I think Aaton is still viable. We are looking forward to the Penelope Delta digital camera. But to keep those film cameras working you have to be really creative, and I’ve had to go back into a bit of production management to package it up with the labs and the post production houses to keep it going.

And the only other trend I’m seeing is we actually got some Hawk anamorphic lenses. The anamoprhic lens trend seems to be coming. And obviously the company with the blue logo—ZEISS–announced they’re going back into it, too. Thank you.

GEOFFREY

It’s very enlightening to hear Sue’s thoughts. Their daughter is going through film school at this moment. She’s following in her father’s footsteps, so up on technical specs, following the websites, following NAB on the latest technology. As I said to Sue earlier today, that’s just like John: always one step ahead, keeping abreast with technology. I think that’s a great credit to Sue. Because the industry is changing and post production is very important to us all now, as Sue touched upon. And one of the companies that made a lot of adjustments over the last few years is a company in the U.K., which is Onsite. I’d like to call upon Richard to give us a view of where you are with your company, your specialization, and how you see the industry.

RICHARD MILLS, ONSIGHT RENTALS AND POST (UK)

It’s a strange time in the industry. We’ve got companies coming out of left field manufacturing cameras. We’ve got realization amongst companies that glass is very important and, going into the future, may often outlast the camera formats. We have Kodak, a company which led for many years, which sold off its inheritance, sold off its Crown Jewels. If you think of technologies that we use at the moment in the digital field, the Bayer pattern is a Kodak invention.

The OLED display is a Kodak patent. Fujifilm, their major competitor, what did they announce this year? They announced digi-vault. They got into digital asset management. So people are investing in glass. What people should be investing in is actually the education, training and expertise.

We should be investing in technicians to support our products. We should be investing in people who will be able to understand the technology as it develops, and we should be able to understand how, and have an insight into how it develops and the way things happen in the future.

If we look at the convergence between the electronic and digital worlds and the organic world of film, a number of manufacturers, a number of software writers, a number of product developers have realized that there is a convergence now between the need for a pure objective approach to imaging. We have technology which is now electronically approaching that of film projection and delivery. And we have a number of tools which will help us to maintain a uniform workflow.

But what we do need is investment in training and people. We don’t need–I’m not casting aspersions here, as I went to a college and studied media myself–but we don’t need untrained people coming up. We need people with real skills. And that includes the technical skills and the creative skills as well. So that’s the way forward, I think.

GEOFFREY

Thank you Richard. Okay. Just take a slight diversion here.  95 Percent of the people in this room tonight are involved with rental equipment. I thought it’s only right that we give Mark of P.E.R.G. a chance to air his views. P.E.R.G. is Professional Equipment Rental Group of the U.S.A.

MARK WOFFORD, PC&E (ATLANTA)

One of the things I think we all like about this dinner is that we get to talk about issues and concerns that we all have regardless of where we are, and there’s a worldwide organization called PLASA, the international membership body for those who supply technologies and services to the event, entertainment and installation industries.

And within that, there’s a group called P.E.R.G., which is the Production Equipment Rental Group, which are basically rental houses. Right now we’re mainly in the United States

But PLASA being a worldwide organization, we would love to make it a worldwide group. Things that we are working on are terms and conditions. I’m sure we all have issues with clients returning contracts that are red-lined. Missing equipment. There’s a database–you don’t have to be a member. If you have missing equipment you can put it on the list and everyone will get a notification. The website is: plasa.org. There’s a link to P.E.R.G.

One of the things we’re working on is data. How do we handle data? We’re rental companies. We rent the media to the companies, and how many times does media come back with images on it from the customer. I mean, how many have had that. That’s a liability, and we need to have the best practices of rental houses.

We need to have documents that we can give to our customers that say we’re not responsible. You are responsible. You acknowledge that. We’re not going to save it. If you want us to save it, you’re going to keep renting. Those kind of issues. So we would love to invite everyone to join us.

That’s what’s great about this experience for me, is talking to somebody in France or Mexico or Australia, and we all speak a common language. Please join us.

GEOFFREY

Thank you, Mark. You can always say that the French have got a lot of flair. Apart from French food and wine, you’ve got a renowned person, known as Danys Bruyere.

DANYS BRUYERE, TSF (PARIS, CANNES, MARSEILLE, LIEGE)

Last year I said, well, we’re not camera rental companies anymore. We’re lens and accessory rental companies.

And, so reflecting back on that and looking at what’s happening at N.A.B. this year, looking at what the new products are: remember last year we had all of this talk about 2 or 3D, and, as companies, we’re all looking at that and thinking we have to invest in this. We have to buy rigs. We have to buy double sets of lenses…

LES ZELLAN

We like that. (giggling from audience)

DANYS

Yes. And all of this was very confusing, and this year for once, the N.A.B. is focusing on core business. We’ve got solutions that are maturing. We got companies that are perfecting their products. We’re not seeing many revolutions or new directions to go into because I think the future tendencies, what we’ll move into in 2012 and 2013, will be high-frame rate acquisition.

Will it be perhaps a high dynamic range? I’m not sure. But today we’ve got the tools to build on these. We have the tools today that can do this. We have directions that are being mapped out. We’ll see blockbusters much like Avatar that determined the future of 3D. I think the Hobbit will put the real benchmark on higher frame rate acquisitions.

It will get the presentation equipment up to spec because, as Avatar provoked the equipment of 3D capable and digital cinema, I think the Hobbit will push it a little bit further, and what’s ironic is today that we’ve got the cameras that can do this. We’ve got the digital cameras that can shoot 60 frames per second. We’ve got all of the bench marks, and what we’re seeing is building blocks being put together.

I think it’s very positive that we’re seeing that the core of the business is shifting even though there’s a Blackmagic camera, there is new sensor on the Epic, and a four-by-three Alexa Plus. There are more cameras. And that we now, today, must accept these as being ephemeral: that next year these cameras will be replaced by something else. It will be the C700. It will be the F75. It will be the Alexa Magna, whatever. But the core of the business will still continue to be the craftsmanship and the lenses, of course, and bringing that craftsmanship back into its focus.

Companies that have ignored the cinema market for a long time are now getting involved in it. Everybody’s talking about anamorphic. And it’s understanding today what makes the look–what makes the aesthetic. Before, it wasn’t the camera; it was the film stock, and it was about the glass that was in front of it.

Now we have a situation where the camera is like a film stock, but it is difficult to interchange. So we’re going more towards the front of the lens. This year, we seem to be going back to basics. I don’t know how long this will last because the business of technology is always very frivolous.

The vision of the world should come from the Director and the Cinematographer, not from the tools. And so the glass is what is going to find that equilibrium between what the camera manufacturers are imposing as a very structured CCD or CMOS sensor, and the potential for creativity. The glass will bring the element that the Cinematographers are looking for: changing the glass is easier than changing the camera. So we’ll see what happens.

GEOFFREY

I would just like to add for the first time ever, we have amongst us a person who is new to our annual gathering, a person who showed a lot of interest in wanting to learn and understand how our industry works. Most of us, I would say, if not all of us, come from a film background. So the electronic, digital age is quite new to us and we’ve adapted to it, and accepted it.

But one person’s always asked me questions, and it’s very interesting and it’s very refreshing from a person from a large organization to actually express an interest in why and what we want and the differences. I’d like to welcome Richard Lewis from Sony.

I thought Richard has shown so much interest into what is wanted and what we are looking for–there is a gap, such a big gap between the film and the digital side– Richard is one of those very few people.

Richard, we appreciate your coming here this evening to listen to what we have to say.

RICHARD LEWIS, SONY UK

Thank you. I’m happy to be here.

GEOFFREY

A lot of these people in the room are very passionate. It’s not just a job to them. It’s a passion, and the people we deal with are artists. We work with artists to give them the results they want. Sony is presenting demos in the Sony 4K theatre. They went round to their companies around the world and said we want some footage shot by guys in your country. They went to Japan, Hawaii, the UK and Rio. We know about the Rio production because Cooke supplied the lenses through ZGC to TV Globo TV. And I don’t know if you’ve seen the footage, but if you haven’t seen it, go and watch it. It blows you away. The footage shot in the U.K. is also amazing. To shoot in the U.K. in March is not the best time, I could tell you. But they shot in the Lake district, which is very barren in March. It’ was a big production, and Richard was part of that. They used all of the lenses: Cookes, Leica Summilux-C, and ZEISS.

And Richard is working for the benefit of the industry–I believe he’s the first person I’ve known from Sony who is so passionate about the end result.

Moving on,  I’d like to call upon Jon Fauer, ASC. Jon is the passionate one—he is a renowned Cinematographer, and he is the publisher of Film and Digital Times. He’s a guru on technical side of the industry and the artistic. Jon, I’d like you to give us an overview of how you see the industry–where we are today, what you’re seeing at the show, and where we are heading?

JON FAUER

Where are we heading? I agree with Sue and her daughter. The Blackmagic camera was fascinating. Basically it’s an SSD Recorder and DaVinci Resolve Post Production Suite with a free 2.5K camera attached. The camera has a Canon or PL mount on it. You can put almost any PL-mount lens on it, including Cooke lenses, which will make Les Zellan very happy.

Now, Film and Digital Times has just learned that Cooke Optics has been buying up sensors around the world at very inexpensive rates. And next year there will be Cooke sensors attached to the back of every Cooke lens, and all you have to do is attach one of these things to a $290 recording box. Rumor has it there may even be a Cooke Camera.

LES ZELLAN

Jon, what happened to our NDA–Non-Disclosure Agreement?

JON FAUER

Just kidding. But that relates to where I think we’re headed. I still think this is the beginning of the year of 4K and that it’s reinforced amazingly by the company represented by Richard Lewis, sitting there. Sony is producing the first major Hollywood F65 feature, After Earth. And the ironic thing is that it is not being shot with what we heard about last year, when all the talk was whether lenses were “4K” lenses.

We heard much discussion last year about 4K lenses and whether existing lenses would be good for 4K. Well guess what what they are shooting After Earth with? They’re shooting Angenieux zooms and Cooke primes.

LES ZELLAN

Cooke lenses are 20K.

JON FAUER

They are OK.

GEOFFREY

Any K.

JON FAUER

What they are is familiar. They don’t impose a new learning curve. The familiar look and feel is unchanged: film or digital.

I think NAB 2012 is the year of mounts, accessories, and lenses. But it’s ironic that a lot of the camera manufacturers are forgetting that we really do need to hold the cameras and we need to put them on our shoulder. We need a way to attach things to them, matteboxes, follow focus, monitors, and accessories. That’s too often forgotten.

If you look everywhere at the show you see so many aftermarket Mom and Pop machine shops, which I find pretty amazing. They must get down on their knees every morning in thanks that most of the camera manufacturers are forgetting the basics, the ergonomics.

That’s basically where we are. Lenses are money in the bank and lenses are what people really need.

GEOFFREY

Thank you, Jon.

Oliver Schietinger of TCS has a few words.

OLIVER SCHIETINGER, TCS (NEW YORK)

One of the things I saw happening as a trend is people getting into each other’s rice bowl, and I see that that also happens on the rental house side. A trend is rental houses now getting involved with color correction or post or dailies.

When we were working with film cameras, film cameras were our main business. There was always an interest in getting sharper and sharper lenses. There was this trend for looking for the sharpest glass possible. But recenytly, I see an interest in vintage glass. There’s an interest in antique glass and softer looks. There is renewed interest in the Cooke 20-60, 18-100, and we’re looking at purchasing another Cooke 25-250. One of the other interesting things that Les has brought to the market is the uncoated Cooke Panchro front element. I find this is really going to be a strong segment in our market.

GEOFFREY

I think Phillip of Camalot, Amsterdam, Netherlands, the home of I.B.C, has a few words.

PHILLIP VIE, CAMALOT (AMSTERDAM)

What I learned tonight, I think I am fortunate being here actually as a “youngster.” I started my company fifteen years ago. I and my business partner decided not to invest in film. I truly, dearly love film. But I had a feeling that there were a lot of good companies around me doing film, already working in film.

I thought I was not going to interfere. It was economically a very good decision. We realized early on that lenses were more important than sensors—especially with the small budgets we have in our country.

We own one of the first European F65 Sony cameras. On the other hand, probably at this IBC, Apple will announce an 8K iPhone. I told my business partner a few years ago, “The moment the machine becomes more important than the man behind the machine, I’ll hand him my stock.”

The people behind the machines are always, and always will be, more important. That’s the reason that I teach at the film academy in Amsterdam part time.

Education is the main thing. Look at my girls. We had a vacation just now, with 50 friends at a small film festival in the middle of Italy, on top of a mountain. It’s a beautiful place. We all agreed to give up communicating with the outside world for 48 hours: no email, no Facebook, no texting, no cell phones. I was scared because I own a rental company, and you can reach me 24/7.

But it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I noticed that my young girls had never experienced one day without that. At first, they were scared. At the end of two days, they were playing games with the other kids, were talking to each other—an the same thing with the grownups. I caught myself checking my e-mail and my text message six times tonight. Sorry for that. But it shows how important the community is.

I strongly feel that we should get our heads together and come up with some kind of education, with a degree for DITs, because ones and zeros, I’m sorry to say, are our future. Bits and bytes. But it will be done. Thank you.

GEOFFREY

I’d like to call upon Denny Clairmont to summarize his experience from the center of the world’s film industry in Hollywood.

DENNY CLAIRMONT, CLAIRMONT CAMERA (HOLLYWOOD, VANCOUVER, TORONTO, ALBUQUERQUE, MONTREAL)

Well, first of all I want to talk about what you just called the “film center of Hollywood.” We’ve had a big impact from what people call run-away production. They’ve been shooting in Louisiana, different parts of the United States, and now Brazil, Argentina, South Africa. TV commercials, movies and television. We have been impacted in Hollywood.

Last year at this event I predicted that 2011 was going to be a very good year with money freeing up for independent productions that were going to really pick up. Well, I was wrong. I’ve got to be very careful about my predictions in the future.

I would like to talk about an experience that I had. We did some very critical tests with Leica Summilux-C lenses, Zeiss Master Primes, and the Cooke 5/i. We put them on digital cameras, looked at how much resolution they had. We looked for color fringing and many things, like distortion, and so on. They all looked very good.

We tested with the same lens projector we do for film. The lenses were all very, very close. We looked for breathing. We tested for color fringing, because that’s very critical on digital cameras–they see it. We put them all on our M.T.F. machine. They all had high M.T.F. We looked at what I call fall-off illumination, or shading–in other words, how bright it is in the center, how bright toward the edges. They were all very good. Some were a little bit better in one area, some in other areas.

They were so close that it didn’t matter a whole bunch. Then we did a film test. We did this on a stage that was very well lit by a very good DP, Isidore Mankofsky, ASC. We shot a grey scale, a color chart, and then we had a set with a desk and a practical lamp. We were looking for several different things, and one of them was narcissism (double image of hot spots) and other things.

We tested all of that, and there was a young lady that was supposed to be our model. Well, she got sick. She didn’t show up, and so there was a young woman there on the set. We asked her if she would be our model, and she agreed to that. She was about 27 years old, and she had no make-up on except what a normal lady would use to go out. You know, a little bit around her eyes, and she did have a little blemish on her face.

The film stock used on the test was Kodak 5219. The film was developed and we projected it. It looked better with the Cooke lenses. I was trying to analyze why it looked better with the Cooke lenses.

All the lenses were so close, the Leicas, the Master Primes, and the Cooke 5/I’s. Why did she look better? I analyzed it more carefully and what it is, the Leica lenses and the Master Primes have higher contrast, and they showed the blemish. Even though the Cooke lens is just as sharp, it’s not that high contrast. And it almost hid that blemish. It was almost gone. So this “Cooke Look” is a real thing. I wanted to say that. We’ve always known that–at least I always felt that–and so many people know that the Cooke look is good.

There’s something else that I want to say about these digital cameras. I just want you all to remember, when you’re quoting rental rates for your shows, that these cameras are saving production a lot of money. We’ll talk about the F65 and the Alexa. They work at extremely low light levels. They are almost able to see in the dark. One of our movies, that is just finishing up now, is called Argo. They shot film, in every combination: 2-perf, 3-perf, 4-perf. They shot some anamorphic scenes. They shot every format of film–and they also used the Alexa. We have several shows shooting on film—but if it’s a night time exterior, they will use Alexa.

Because these darn things will see at very low light levels. There’s a D.P. we work with, Matthias Herndl, who just did a show with our Alexas. He was shooting night exteriors, and he wanted to see way down two blocks away. So he went and rented a big Musco Light that goes way up high and has a remote control to pan and tilt all the lights. He can dim them and turn off individual lights, everything by wireless. He said, “I started turning off the lights one by one. I ended up with one light, and I realized that I could have done this with a cherry picker and a 2K up there.” My point in telling you all that is these cameras are saving production a lot of money on lighting. So if they’re crying to you that they don’t have any money, and that your rental prices are too high on these digital cameras…what they’re not telling you is all the money that they’re saving by using those cameras. Actually, some of them are coming right forward and saying they save money. We had a show we’ve been doing for years in Vancouver. They were shooting with ARRI D-21s and they called up and said they had to have an Alexa. They said how they were going to be shooting in cars and needed a small camera. That was when the Alexa was just coming out. So we got one of the first ones to them.

Now they’re crying to me they’ve got to have more Alexas because the Alexa is saving them so much time and so much money on lighting, they’ve got to have it. And it’s a television show. They’re recording on the SxS cards, and that’s saving a lot of money.

As far as the industry goes, we’re all talking about a decline in film, and more and more digital. But film’s not dead yet. It’s certainly decreasing in numbers. We see a big decrease in Hollywood on film for commercials. These are approximate numbers, but I’m not too inaccurate. I would think it’s about 75 percent digital today. And maybe 25 percent film for commercials. For the big screen, in my opinion, unless you have a lot of CGI and a lot of computer effects, you are still best off with film. I think that’s pretty much the popular belief. People throw a lot of numbers around, but I would think for the big screen, the percentage is 75 percent shot on film. That’s still pretty high for the big screen.

The Sony F65, once they get all of the little issues that we need to be straightened out, with its 4K and 16-bit, is going to be very important for CGI, green screen, and all of that. Once the issues still remaining get straightened out, and they’re almost there, then it will be good.

I had a meeting with the people over at Sony. All of the Sony productions. Sony pictures and everything. They’re going to want everything shot–all Sony productions shot 4K 16 bit now. And the reason is that they want to archive on  4K because they feel that in a very few years, people are going to have 4K TV sets in their house. So they’re going to shoot it now, and release it in HD 1920 x 1080.

But they’re going to have in the archives their 4K. And then they’ll re-release these things in 4K a few years from now and get another round of sales on those.

So that’s what’s happening there.

So yeah, there’s a little activity in two perf more I think in Europe, and I know Tarun is doing something in India. There’s still some interest in 2-perf film. A lot of people ask, “What happens if Kodak goes out of business?” Well, if they do—Fujifilm is still there. Fujifilm is a very good product. Fujifilm has very deep pockets. And Fujifilm is not–has on a good year 15 percent of the market, but more typically they have had, world-wide 8 percent of the market. If all of the sudden Kodak did stop making film, boy, that would be a big boon to Fujifilm. And, remember, Fujifilm just got a Sci-Tech Academy Award for their film stock for archiving the digital stuff.

So that’s pretty much it.

GEOFFREY

Denny, thank you very much indeed. I’d like to thank you all very much for taking part in this tonight. If you want to add anything or censor t anything you said, come and see me or Jon tomorrow. What will happen next, I expect, is that I hope Jon would like to take the meat from the bone, as it were, and make an article for the next edition of Film and Digital Times. These meetings here are pretty unique and open.

Now I’d like to add a few words. It has been an exciting year for Cooke Optics. The film Hugo, directed by Martin Scorcese, with cinematography by Bob Richardson, ASC was the first feature to use all three sets of Cooke lenses: 5/i, S4/i and Panchro/i.

That was an interesting exercise for us. They pushed us to the limit because they started the film just as we were turning out the first 5/i lenses. Being in 3D, they wanted two of everything. We only had the basic set, and in fact we really worked hard to get them the first lenses. They then had to fill in the basic set with additional focal lengths: 65, 27 and 21 mm which were not ready at the time. So they used S4/i.

Now, don’t forget this was a 3D production and they wanted a lot of camera movement and Steadicam shots. They realized that a complete rig with two Alexas and two 5/i lenses were going to weigh over 110 pounds. We then introduced them to the lighter weight Panchros. They took the Panchros and they loved them. And if you watch the movie, remember it was shot with not one, not two, but all three lines of Cooke lenses: Panchros, S4/i and 5/i. I defy anybody in this room to tell me what was shot with which one. They all match very, very well. Perfectly color balanced. Hugo went on to win the Oscar for best cinematography for Bob Richardson, ASC.

We’re passionate about what we do. We’re a small company, but the people at Cooke, as you know, are very proud of what we do. And we’ve got that with Les Zellan, the chairman. Robert Howard, the managing director, gives him amazing support at the factory to keep it all together. Although we are behind on the deliveries, and we do apologize for that, we are doing our best to increase that, but the demand from people worldwide for the Cooke Look is astounding. I mean, I can only say that our sales could increase fivefold if we could deliver within six months. We can’t do that.

But what you are you getting? You’re getting a quality product from a company where you can speak to everybody involved. Including the owner, Les Zellan. If I ask you who is the owner of some other companies, you wouldn’t know. Have you ever spoken to them? The answer is probably no. I’m not putting them down, but I am promoting the passion we have at Cooke.

When I joined Les at Cooke 12 years ago, I asked him what was his mission. Was it a company to build up and then sell? He said, “No. This is a company that’s been in existence for over 100 years. I want to make it stronger.” Because it was really low at the time – and he added, “I want to hand it on to the next generation in a better condition than it was.”

I think they’ve done that. We’re now into over 70 countries world-wide, and our sales have been absolutely phenomenal, and with your support and patience and understanding–and I say that because I know you all want our product—and as rental companies you’ve always been reactive. And I’ve taught you the notion of being proactive, thinking ahead. I never, ever thought I’d have to tell you to think two years ahead, but that’s the state of the industry now.

It’s a great product. It’s a great industry. Thank you for your support. Thank you for attending this evening, and I’m sure we’ll look forward to welcoming you back either at IBC or Cinec or NAB next year. I’d like the final word from Les, but before I pass you over to Les and say goodnight, if you haven’t collected a catalog of Cooke Optics, we have a USB stick that you can take away this evening. No fancy t-shirts, baseball caps. We don’t have any trimmings. Even Les doesn’t have long trousers. He doesn’t even have socks. It’s a very economic company. But we have a USB stick.

I’m delighted that Juergen Schwinzer has joined the group. Juergen has served 40 years with ARRI, right? You know, retirement at 65 can be crazy. The best cinematographers are still shooting at 75, 80. It was an opportunity to us to invite Juergen to our team to help us build our company, give us more insight.

We know you, too, are passionate about the industry. Thank you again for coming. I pass you over to Les Zellan, Chairman of Cooke Optics.

LES ZELLAN

It’s getting late and I won’t keep you much longer. I just want to thank everybody for coming and to thank everybody for their support over the years. We couldn’t do it without the support from all of you. Denny, you were extremely supportive over all the years, and certainly your support, Denny, has been invaluable.

But everybody in this room has supported us, and I can’t say enough about it. About the people that I work with–Geoff and the rest of the team—thank you.

I look forward to seeing you at any of the future shows, or next year, Wednesday night at NAB, which we do every year.

Leave a Comment

3 Responses:

  1. Danys BRUYERE:

    Hi Jon
    Thanks for the entertaining read!
    With these yearly reports, you’re actually building a unique archive of our industry, not through a looking glass, but through many glasses of wine!!

    Thanks again for all of your truly remarkable work.

    Danys

  2. Jon Fauer:

    Danys,
    And through a glass darkly… Thanks for the encouragement, engaging thoughts and enlightening views. Jon

  3. Laurence Zankowski:

    As far as I am concerned this was one of the better insight articles i have read in years. Just to keep up with the cooke line was worth the read. Will be coming back for more. Btw, was for the second time, the official photographer for the 48 Hour Film Project, here in Albuquerque. Saw a huge mix of cameras this year. Mostly HD-DSLRs. Be well, Laurence

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